Perhaps even by writing this blospost I will be accused of scaremongering, but I don’t think I am alone in wondering about the consequences of a banking collapse.
Back in 2005, when I was a parliamentary candidate, I remember walking down Cromer High Street on a Friday afternoon with 16 pence in my pocket. My credit cards were maxed out. My overdraft was at its limit and I had used up all my savings. In short, I wasn’t far way from hitting rock bottom. How on earth had I got myself into this position? One thing I did know, I would never allow it to happen again. After the election, I sold our cottage in Norfolk and used the profit (thank God there was a profit!) to pay off all my debts. I quickly got myself back on my feet and between then and now have built up some savings. Not a huge amount, but enough to make use of if a rainy day ever approached.
The banking crisis of 2008 shattered many people’s confidence in the whole financial system. Regulation had failed, and as far as I can see, little has changed to improve it. I don’t want more regulation, I want better regulation.
The euro crisis has brought back bitter memories of 2008. It seems to me that the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone could indeed herald a second banking crisis, which in Europe could be far more badly hit than three years ago. Why? Because of a domino effect. It is argued that British banks are slightly insulated by this, but I wonder how many people really believe this. We may be located a few more dominos down the track than France or Germany, but does anyone seriously doubt our banks would esape unscathed?
Alistair Darling promised that anyone with savings of up to £85,000 would have their savings protected. But how firm would that guarantee be in the future? Can we rely on it? Of course, that only refers to savings in a deposit account – not a business account. If a major bank went under, businesses would be decimated.
I bank with Lloyds TSB. I don’t have any accounts with European banks. If I had, I would now be closing them and moving my money. I have no idea how many people are thinking in the same way, but if they’re not, ought they to be? It’s the great unspoken subject at the moment. It’s like the Fawlty Towers sketch – Don’t mention the war. I did, but I think I got away with it. We don’t talk about our money in polite society. It’s not the way we British do things. Well I do want to talk about it, because like most people, I suspect, I am beginning to get a little nervous.
There is a part of me that wonders if my money wouldn’t be safer under my mattress. Pauline Neville-Jones, when she was on the Murnaghan programme on Sky News this morning, reckons that it is entirely possible that if there was a collapse of several banks, the rest would just shup up shop – shut their doors and prevent people from withdrawing money. If you read Alistair Darling’s book, Back From the Brink, you’ll know how close we came to that point in 2008. The cashpoints were hours away from having the plug pulled. The government is said to be making contingency plans for civil unrest in the event of a banking collapse.
So I ask again. What should people do, who have a modest amount of savings? Trust the government guarantee? Or something else? Buy gold? Buy something else? Withdraw it and stick it in a safe?
Perhaps Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, should dispense some wise advice on this subject. Because I am buggered if I know what to do.